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How Spartacus Was Saved By Bad LSI

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By Michael Rough

So you have a website and a social media empire and want Google to recognize you as the “real deal”, the number one go- to source in your niche. Similar to the scene in the 1960 classic “Spartacus”,

Your competitors are shouting out to Google in the attempt to be recognized as the content leader for your desired search phrases.  Google (playing the role of Marcus Licinius Crassus) is trying to determine who the real “Spartacus” is by using a primary process known as Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI).

Latent Semantic Indexing attempts to identify the best match with a search query by understanding the themes of a website and associated media as related to the search, rather than relying on the amount of keyword density on the site itself. While keyword density does play a part in the evaluation of your content, it typically is not enough to satisfy the requirements of a quality content-thirsty algorithm. In the case of Spartacus there was a massive amount of conflicting data relating to his identity that Crassus was unable to determine who the real Spartacus really was using his existing processing power. 

The beauty of understanding and implementing LSI content strategies is the way it works with traditional SEO techniques to develop an even stronger argument for ranking under targeted semantic themes. This is doubly true in light of the latest Google Update “Hummingbird” which focuses on returning answers to “real” voice speech patterns, as opposed to unnatural keyboard input method. The increased usage of voice recognition software as applied to mobile search is the main reason for this shift in content evaluation.

Updating and Developing LSI Content

Google now sorts sites on the frequency of a variety of related terms and key phrases that link together instead of the frequency of a the classic keyword or phrase. As mentioned previously your textual content should include your main keyword or phrase, although the main body of content should never focus solely on one keyword or phrase.

The key to understanding how to develop well rounded latent semantic content are the definitions of the words themselves:

Latent –  existing but not yet developed or manifest.
Semantic – Of or relating to meaning, especially meaning in language

In simpler terms, you need to develop content that uses multiple related terms to describe the overall concept, theme, and context of the page and or site!

Employing this method of content development aids LSI algorithms as they attempt to map the relationships between words to decipher the meaning of the text. This is even more important when considering the evaluation of content for an entire website as viewed through the “Semantic” lense. Creating linking strategies to or from your social and other web properties that match your targeted theme also aid in creating a network authority effect that is measured as it relates to your site.

Then and Now

Up until recently, a typical user query would only return pages that contained all the specific keywords in the search query. The implementation of LSI based algorithms has changed search returns to where  that no longer is the case. This change doesn’t mean that search results won’t include content with exact match keywords, but that sites returned may not include exact match phrases. The goal is to return results that convey a strong matching for the “meaning” of a user’s search and a particular document or collection of documents.

A little-discussed factor relating to LSI is how “Personalized Search” effects returns. Utilizing past history and preference for content type, length, and complexity, Google returns semantic related content based on personality type, perceived age, and education level, making it extremely important not only to understand all facets of your sites content development but also how it will relate to the search needs of your users when they find it.

As an example, depending on education level and personality of your targeted user you may want to write about “Ray Guns” instead of “Directed Energy Weapon”  if a user searches using the query “Laser Gun”. Understanding who you are writing for goes a long way to crafting specific page content that matches the overall concept of the query.

Preplanning your content to provide a well rounded discussion of your targeted “themes” is the most effective method to enhance your ability to show up in results in SERPS when compared to keyword stuffing an individual page.  Sites that contain well planned, written, and linked content within its themed structure within their network are more likely to see stable positioning as an authority over time.

While designing a cohesive road map that spans your entire network of social and traditional internet properties may seem daunting at the beginning, consistent effort and staying on course is your best strategy for continued success into the future as Google and other properties continue to improve their ability to understand content as a human would.

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